Update: After reading about the formal complaint process here, DansDeals reader Meir Silverman filed a complaint against Azerbaijan on September 9th for refusing a refund. Here is the Word document of his complaint.
Azerbaijan initially opposed his formal complaint before deciding to issue a refund. They asked the DoT today to dismiss the complaint based on providing Meir a cash refund.
Meir writes to me that the refund was wired into his account last week. He had over 2 dozen tickets with various airlines that were cancelled, but he was able to get them all refunded one way or another, besides for the Azerbaijan ticket.
Have you tried filing a formal DOT complaint to get a refund?
Originally posted on 9/8:
When things go wrong with the airlines I’ve turned to the DoT to complain and have had good results. They have a convenient online complaint form here to file an informal complaint.
- When American had the nerve to cancel our flight to London, strand us overnight in JFK, lose our baggage, and refuse to cooperate in providing a refund, the DoT stepped in and took care of business. It took a good amount of time, but it was resolved in the end.
- When American cancelled our flights booked with Iberia Avios I had to file a DOT complaint to get my miles back.
- The DoT also helped me cancel an American award ticket for free after the electronics ban went into effect, as that materially changed the flight.
- When Emirates cancelled $65 tickets from the Maldives, people filed DoT complaints and Emirates reversed course and honored the tickets.
- I recommended filing DoT complaints against Southwest when they changed their terms overnight to stop allowing hotel mileage transfers to count toward companion pass. And sure enough, Southwest relented and honored the deal for another 3 months.
- After Delta’s epic $50 first class tickets to anywhere in the US, including Alaska and Hawaii, people with reservations that weren’t ticketed were able to get them honored thanks to the DoT.
- Alitalia offered a coupon that made tickets from JFK to Israel under $400 round-trip and then cancelled the tickets by adding terms to the coupon used. I recommended contacting the DoT and Alitalia decided to honor them in the end.
- When JAL added $1,700 in fuel surcharges to book Emirates shower class flights, people who transferred Starpoints to JAL were left holding miles that were effectively devalued without notice. JAL refused to waive the fuel surcharges or return their Starpoints. Generally speaking, once you transfer points to an airline, they are stuck there. I recommended that people complain to the DoT and DDF member rileywiles23 did just that. It took 2 months, but JAL refunded his miles back into Starwood Starpoints. They also refunded fuel surcharges to people who who paid them, after filing a DOT complaint. Since then JAL has once again removed fuel surcharges on these awards.
The DOT also reaffirmed that COVID-19 is not a valid reason for airlines to refuse refunds on cancelled flights and that policy changes made after a ticket purchase are a deceptive practice. US airlines like JetBlue and United quickly came in line. Some airlines like Air Canada and El Al refused. And then came the Canada Transportation Agency after our Air Canada post…
So what do you do when an airline refuses to comply with an informal DOT dispute? You can file a chargeback or take an airline to small claims court.
Or you can file a formal DOT dispute.
You’ll want to be careful though, just look at the resources American used against a claimant who filed a formal DOT complaint!
DansDeals reader Meir Libersohn had a dispute with Avianca for a ticket booked on CheapOAir when his flight was cancelled. He had no luck getting a refund after contacting Avianca and CheapOAir in March.
He filed an informal DOT complaint in May, but Avianca still refused to provide a refund.
So he filed a formal DOT complaint on July 2nd. All formal complaints are posted on Regulations.gov and his complaint can be seen here, along with download links for his complaint in Word and PDF formats.
Just 1 week later, Avianca gave Meir his refund in full and asked him to drop his formal complaint against the airline. He did so and Avianca asked the DOT to dismiss the case based on the withdrawal of the complaint.
His format may not be as professional as most that I’ve seen, but it did the trick and you can edit it to make it work for you. If you have hit a wall after filing an informal DOT complaint and a credit card chargeback, then go ahead and file a formal complaint of your own.
Ben Edelman writes about the formal DOT complaint process, and it’s an excellent resource to read about what to do. You can use his formal complaint template here. He advises to include exhibits at the end to support your case, including screenshots, tickets, and correspondence with customer relations. Bear in mind that anything you include will be made public, but Ben also includes information on making a redacted file if needed. He also says to leave the placeholder after the year blank, as that will get assigned by the DOT.
Meir says that he filed his complaint here and sent a copy of his complaint to Blane A. Workie, Assistant General Counsel, OST/DOI at firstname.lastname@example.org and copied Kimberly Graber, Esq. email@example.com, Robert Gorman, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org, Juanita Falconi Linares email@example.com, and Roberto Kriete firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course if you’re complaining about another airline you’ll want to send a copy to their executives.
Have you ever filed a formal DOT complaint? If you do file, let us know what happens!